E-cigarettes: Lobbying

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This page describes the situation in 2013-14, when tobacco companies were beginning to invest in e-cigarettes. It focuses on Europe and the US.
For more recent information on tobacco company interests and activities around the world, see the main page on e-cigarettes.

How strictly e-cigarettes were to be regulated by governments would be a crucial factor influencing the growth of this new industry. As regulatory authorities around the world examined whether and how to regulate e-cigarettes, many commentators predicted that there would be strong opposition to any proposed regulations.

In 2012, the EU Member States, which were preparing new laws on e-cigarettes, were taking different approaches to the industry. Stances varied from complete prohibition; proposing regulating e-cigarettes as tobacco products or medicinal products and even as consumer products.1

Most countries, however, waited for the revision of the EU Tobacco Products Directive to be approved, before deciding what to do. After the Directive was approved in March 2014, Member States had two years to implement the new rules at national level.

The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) also presented proposals on e-cigarette regulation in 2014 (finalised in 2016).2

Would Regulation Preserve Or Destroy The E-Cigarette Industry?

By the beginning of 2014, most countries had limited or no regulation on quality, ingredients or safety of e-cigarettes, nor specific rules on marketing. This lack of regulatory oversight provided the e-cigarette industry with a unique and lucrative sales and marketing opportunity. As a consequence, any kind of regulation would impact the industry’s profit margins.3

For instance, the tests required to have a brand approved as a medicine require significant financial resources and can take a prolonged period of time. Tobacco companies with an interest in e-cigarettes (whether as developers themselves or through the acquisition of specialised companies) had the advantage of experience, technical facilities and financial resources that the smaller and independent competitors lacked. Likewise, existing products would suffer from the specific limitations on strength, size and safety.4 Some commentators argued that smaller companies would find it more difficult to adjust to new rules within a regulatory framework.5

Lobbying Expected

Smaller e-cigarette companies would adopt different lobbying strategies from larger tobacco companies. Some independent companies were explicitly anti-industry and considered the tobacco industry’s interest in e-cigarettes as nothing less than an effort to take over the rapidly growing market.4

Some analysts saw tobacco companies industry promoting devices to quit smoking as a move to restore their discredited reputations, or promote corporate social responsibility (CSR) by involving in harm reduction statements. British American Tobacco for instance, presented its Vype e-cigarette as “a less risky alternative to conventional cigarettes” and “Harm reduction crucial to the future of our business.”6

Other analysts argued that this was a useful investment in product innovation, as part of a strategy to hold on to a declining market – at least in the more affluent Western countries.7

At the global level though, the e-cigarette still only had 1%-2% of the total cigarette market by early 2014.8

For developments after 2014, and in other countries, see the main page on e-cigarettes.

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. Library of the European Parliament, Electronic Cigarettes, Library Briefing, 27 March 2013, accessed January 2013
  2. Food and Drug Administration, FDA’s Deeming Regulations for E-Cigarettes, Cigars, and All Other Tobacco Products, website, undated, accessed March 2022
  3. Toni Clarke, U.S. proposal would ban e-cigarette sales to minors, allow advertising, Reuters, 24 April 2014, accessed May 2014
  4. abS. Tavernise, B. Meier, For E-Cigarettes, the Regulatory Battle Now Begins, New York Times, 24 April 2014, accessed may 2014
  5. J. Sullum, Will FDA Regulation Preserve Or Destroy The E-Cigarette Industry?, Forbes, 1 May 2014, accessed May 2014
  6. British American Tobacco, Harm reduction – Lower-risk alternatives, website, undated, archived October 2014
  7. Walter Frick, The Big Question for E-Cigarettes: Replacement for Tobacco, or New Market? Harvard Business Review blog, 25 April 2014, accessed May 2015
  8. Merrill Lynch, Trial remains high; repeat usage lower, 6 January 2014, accessed May 2014